Childhood Anxiety: Early Warning Signs
By: Dr. Rebecca Moore, C.Psych.
Do you have an anxious child?
Childhood fears are a part of normal growing up. Fears of the dark, monsters under the bed, starting at a new daycare or school - all of these may be part of normal child development. Anxiety is also a signal to help all of us protect ourselves from situations that are dangerous- a warning signal about a lack of safety in your child’s world. Under normal circumstances, anxiety diminishes when a child’s sense of security and safety is restored—anxious thoughts and feelings subside.
When is your child's anxiety something you should be concerned about?Anxiety is considered a disorder not based on what a child is worrying about, but rather how that worry is impacting a child's functioning. The content may be "normal" but help is needed for your child under the following circumstances:
1) when your child is experiencing too much worry or suffering immensely over what may appear to be insignificant situations;
2) when worry and avoidance become your child's automatic response to many situations;
3) when your child feels constantly keyed up, or,
4) when coaxing or reassurance are ineffective in helping your child through his or her anxious thoughts and feelings.
Under these circumstances, anxiety is not a signal that tells them to protect themselves, but rather prevents them from fully participating in typical activities of daily life-school, friendships, and academic performance.
What to look for:
If your child is showing any of the following it may be time to seek help from a qualified professional:
- Anticipatory anxiety, worrying hours, days, weeks ahead
- Asking repetitive reassurance questions, "what if" concerns, inconsolable, won't respond to logical arguments
- Headaches, stomach aches, regularly too sick to go to school
- Disruptions of sleep with difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, difficulty sleeping alone
- Perfectionism, self-critical, very high standards that make nothing good enough
- Overly-responsible, people pleasing, excessive concern that others are upset with him or her, unnecessary apologizing
- Easily distressed, or agitated when in a stressful situation
A CFIR child, adolescent and family psychologist can help you and your child to diminish unhealthy anxiety. A thorough assessment of your child will provide you and your child with valuable information about the sources of your child’s anxiety, and evidence-based psychological treatment will be employed to help your child deal with his or her anxiety symptoms.